Younis, R. (2015). Neuroscience, virtues, ethics, compassion and the question of character. PESA Conference 2015.
There has been much debate recently about the meaning, place and function of “character” and “character traits” in Virtue Ethics. For example, a number of philosophers have argued recently that Virtue Ethics would be strengthened as a theory by the omission of talk of character traits; recent neuroscientific studies have suggested that there is scope for scepticism about the existence of such traits. I will argue that both approaches are flawed and unconvincing: in brief, the first approach tends to be predicated on a narrow or insufficient conception of “character” and “character traits”; the second approach tends to go well beyond the available (empirical) evidence. Finally, I will argue that it is possible to point to a philosophy of education that is deeply informed by an understanding of virtue and ethics in which the concept of character has a coherent and meaningful role.
virtue ethics; character traits; neuroscience; compassion; eudaimonia